The Commonwealth Iconoclast

A site dedicated to covering issues relevant to the Commonwealth of Virginia, and nation at large, plus other interesting things too, as I see fit...

Friday, June 30, 2006

Nepotism In Prince Edward County?


Nepotism and Cronyism ...A grand old tradition?

Friends and family enjoying privilages of office?

Unanswered questions lead to more questions.


The gentleman in the picture is the Honorable Howard F. Simpson, Supervisor and Vice Chairman of the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors. This man is a mover and shaker in Prince Edward County government and indeed a man who knows the world of politics, of making deals, doing favors and receiving favors.

As they say… there are privileges of office and Vice Chairman Howard F. Simpson knows perhaps better than most how to get the most out of the office he holds in Prince Edward County government.

For those not familiar with the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors, suffice it to say that the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors has had its "issues" over the past few years. Vice Chairman Simpson is one of the leaders... second in command on the Board if you will... and seems to be aligned with a majority of five Supervisors who form a solid cabal which exercises almost absolute control over all county business. Thus Vice Chairman Simpson is perhaps, more than most, directly responsible for all of those same "issues" for better or worse.

This is the backdrop for our new story… a story that is as old as government and government service.

Where shall we begin?

This story begins to unfold during the regular June 13th, 2006, meeting of the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors. During this routine meeting, there came an unexpected series of questions concerning the proposed $42 million budget that was subsequently approved on a split vote.

Those questions seemed to provoke awkward tension between several of the Supervisors.














County Administrator Mildred B. Hampton (on left) and Chairman William "Buckie" Fore (on right).


But those questions... interesting as they were... elicited little substantive response from County Administrator Mildred B. Hampton. After a brief exchange, those questions came to an abrupt end when Chairman William “Buckie” Fore declared the Supervisor who was asking those questions “out of order.” The justification for this ruling was not offered.

As an Iconoclast editorial observation, accepted parliamentary procedure does indeed allow a ruling of “out of order” if a discussion appears “dilatory, incorrect, frivolous or rude.”

However, given that personnel costs are such an important component of any county budget, the Iconoclast is inclined to think that Chairman Fore’s call in this case may not have been appropriate. The questions were anything but frivolous. Nor did they seem dilatory or rude. Just hard questions on what was perhaps a sensitive subject.

But let us not dwell on this technical issue. There are bigger issues.

So… what is the big deal?

The big deal is that the questioning involved certain personnel actions which resulted in a questionable promotion of an individual to a significant supervisory position in Prince Edward County Government. That personnel action was a part of the County budget paid for by the good citizens of Prince Edward County.

More remarkable is that the beneficiary of this questionable promotion happens to be a close relative of Vice Chairman Howard F. Simpson. This perhaps explains the awkward tension betweem the Supervisors and Vice Chairman Simpson's conspicuous silence on the matter.

The direct beneficiary of the questioned personnel action, one Mr. Billy Coe (as reported in The Southside Messenger), was installed in a supervisory position with Prince Edward County government without the benefit of any public offering of that position. This position is paid by the taxpayers of Prince Edward County. It is a budget issue. It is a public issue. It is an issue of fairness.

While confidential personnel records are indeed protected, It seems clear enough that the questions involving the process of implementing personnel actions and how public funds are spent is a fair topic of public discussion.

It seems that a supervisory position was somehow created and that Mr. Coe was initially appointed on a temporary basis and subsequently, without a public offering, made permanent. Other more senior personnel and similarly qualified personnel appear to have had no opportunity to compete for the position. These circumstances create the impression that the position was just magically created and filled by an individual who happens to be closely related to Vice Chairman Simpson.

How close?

Sources familiar with the particulars have confirmed that Mr. Coe is, in fact, Vice Chairman Howard F. Simpson’s step-son.

According to video footage of the meeting, when pressed for answers, Administrator Hampton could or would not explain how Mr. Coe was installed in a newly created supervisory position without any public notification of the job opportunity.

Is this a privilege of office?

Is this a case of nepotism?

Dear readers, the Commonwealth Iconoclast has no problem with a dad doing favors for his kid. Nor do we really want to get involved in petty local politics. However, if the circumstances in question involve the use of public funds, yes it is indeed a concern.

Perhaps we can learn something useful from these circumstances.

According to Answers.com, nepotism is defined as “Favoritism shown or patronage granted to relatives…”

Nepotism is closely related to cronyism, Cronyism is just like nepotism (favors to relatives), except cronyism is more generic. Cronyism is more like granting favors to your friends and associates. You know the stereotype… these are the people you hang out with at the local watering hole or on the golf course. You get the picture?

Also, nepotism and cronyism is not limited to only employment practices. It can be seen in other relationships between County officials and private interests. Perhaps readers of the Iconoclast will remember "The Dunn Deal: A Family Affair?"

Nepotism and cronyism is also related to the concept of the so called “spoils system" the term coming from the expression "to the victor go the spoils.”

Whether it be nepotism, cronyism or the spoils system, all of these terms usually imply inappropriately granting of favor to less qualified, or unqualified or unworthy beneficiaries based on relationships, friendship, or other associations.

While nepotism and cronyism is widely practiced in the private business world, often with predictably disasterous results, these practices are universally viewed as inapproprite in the public sector.

The reason: Taxpayers should not pick up the tab for self dealing public officials.


The Iconoclast is hesitant to jump to unfair conclusions concerning Vice Chairman Simpson’s role in landing a good job with the County for his step-son. But the unanswered questions create an appearance of inappropropriate favoritism in County personnel practices.

Basic questions should be answered openly. How did the position in question get created and how did Simpson's step-son end up in this position? Did Simpson use his influence with the County Administrator to effect favoritism? Why was this new supervisory position never publicly advertised? Were any other existing County employees who were qualified offered the opportunity to apply for this new supervisory position?

One final question: Is this an isolated example, or is there a systemic pattern of nepotism and cronyism in Prince Edward County government?

Perhaps there is some plausible explaination of these circumstances. Perhaps if the Chairman would have allowed some answers to come forward, there wouldn't be so many new questions.

In government, appearances of propriety and fairness are important... in fact, almost as important as the reality of propriety and fairness. That is what this is all about... trust, transparency and fairness in government.




Note: Thanks again to our friends in Prince Edward who continue to bring these good discussion issues to light. As always, the Iconoclast appreciates confidential tips and further information on topics discussed in these pages.

35 Comments:

  • At 6/30/2006 1:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Buckie doesn't like to answer questions, especially about things that are kind of private. We citizens weren't supposed to know about this little deal.

     
  • At 6/30/2006 9:28 AM, Anonymous Sick and Tired in Rice, VA said…

    Great piece Will! I've been thinking, you know for a community with two excellent institution of higher education, and all the "trappings" associated with them, I feel that the citizens of this County deserve better than this. Thanks for your efforts, they are appreciated and needed!

    Are any of these Supervisors with questionable judgement up for reelection this fall?

     
  • At 6/30/2006 11:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    well hot damn, about time. This sort of BS has only being going on for the past 20 + years in PE Courthouse!

    I have a a hot tip for your next story - "Japan Bombs Pearl Harbor"

    No joke, good stuff amigo!

     
  • At 6/30/2006 1:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    To sick and tired in Rice... I know that Big Howard is up for re-election in November of 2007. I dont think he will be able to talk his way out of this one.

     
  • At 6/30/2006 4:59 PM, Blogger Ralphie said…

    Howdy! I'm fairly new to this blogging thing, so I'll give it a whirl.

    Indeed Mr. Vaught, you do some fine handy work!

    What I find funny is that these folks you write about don't seem to have jack squat to say about your topics.

    To be expected I guess, because we know these very same folks don't have jack squat to say when confronted in a public setting either. All they do is huff and puff and swell up like a Texas horned frog.

    I'll give them a little piece of wisdom from my good buddy Bob Dylan: "The times are a changing"!

    Better believe it. Please excuse me, I've got to go fishing.

    I'll be back, I promise!

     
  • At 6/30/2006 7:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Don't be a putting all this on Howard. Others do it too.

     
  • At 6/30/2006 9:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Well that is obvious. A single bad supervisor could not do this without the blessings of others on the board and in administration. This kind of problem takes a certain degree collusion at the top.

     
  • At 7/01/2006 1:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Howard Simpson, Bobby Jones, Charles McKay and Pattie Cooper-Jones are all up for re-election soon. That will be November 6, 2007.

     
  • At 7/01/2006 3:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I don't think my guy on the board even lives in the county any more. Arn't there laws about that?

     
  • At 7/01/2006 7:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I do hope that jones, simpson, fore, and mckay (who actually lives in another county at this moment) enjoy next 16 months, because it will most definatley be their last, and i hope susie giver herself another big raise too, becasue she and her minions will be shown the door too.

    PE needs and deserves professional and competent staff.

     
  • At 7/02/2006 3:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I am inclined to want to give the board the benefit of the doubt on most things and on this particular matter they are probably due a little breathing room to sort things out. But as in most things there are limits beyond which you do not want to go.

    Given all the chitchat going on about various county matters in recent months, it appears that there are some sore spots. This new flap does't help matters by any means.

    So the board would probably be smart not to let this little flap go unaddressed too long or risk adding to the public perception that the board is not in control, indecisive or, worst of all, may have something to hide.

    Maybe the board could create some kind of grass roots oversight committee to review the county and make recommendations to improve things. Get people talking face to face sharing their ideas about what they expect their government to be like.

    It couldn't hurt. Thanks.

     
  • At 7/02/2006 8:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I wonder who set the pay scale for this new position? How much is currently being paid to this individual? Taxpayers foot the bill, shouldn't they know what they are paying?

     
  • At 7/02/2006 9:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I've heard 45K. That's darn good money around here. What makes it even better is that its rumored this individuals didn't even have to show up to work, and still got a pay check every two weeks.

    I guess that would allow you to put your County issued pager as the number for your private business.

    Read the Southside Messenger article, it talks about that a bit.

    Remember - according to Buckie we have no right to ask these questions at a public hearing. So I guess this forum will have to suffice for now.

     
  • At 7/03/2006 10:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Maybe Supervisor Simpson's son got the job because he is a strong leader, respected by his coworkers, and works harder than the others. Did you ever think of that?

     
  • At 7/03/2006 10:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think that is possible, but we will never know because it appears that the postion was never adverstised properly. As far as anyone can tell the position was just sort of magically created.

    Hiring Coe in this fashion was poor judgement, and gives the appearance of impropriety. And when your doing the public's work apperance can be everything.

     
  • At 7/03/2006 11:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Yeah, and maybe the County Administrator is Santa Claus with gifts for some at our expense. Ho, ho, ho.

     
  • At 7/04/2006 11:24 AM, Anonymous Chip said…

    Sometimes it seems the board runs the county like some kind of country club. Hell, they even got themselves a golf course now. Privilages to members only. Frankly, some of these supervisors really don't think there is nothin wrong. Its just the way they all ways done it.

     
  • At 7/05/2006 10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This kind of nepotism and cronyism has been a fixture in courthouses across the state. In more open and progressive counties, however, leaders have seen that advertising for all open positions brings benefits to all the people, not just a select few. It's a mark of government of the people, by the people, and for the people. What's being done by the current BOS is what that body has done since Reconstruction, which is why they are so dumbfounded that anyone would challenge it. I agree with the other poster who noted "the times they are a changin'."

     
  • At 7/05/2006 11:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Good evening. If this makes me a "blogger" so be it. I am certainly old enough to know better. This discussion is so interesting and I just wanted to say something. Our supervisors are good people. I know most of them. They know and do things sometimes that they know in their hearts are not quite right. We get used to turning a blind eye to things that we know are not right. It is easy. But I hope that our supervisors realize that people are watching and hoping for change. These are good people and I hope that they take this in the right way. Thank you for understanding that I do not care to identify myself. Goodnight.

     
  • At 7/06/2006 12:10 PM, Anonymous sick and tired in Rice, VA Said... said…

    Yes they are good people, but sometimes even good people can make bad decisions. The problem is that these folks at the courthouse have gotten way to use to doing things their way, which at times directly conflicts with the legal, proper, and ethical way to handle the public's business.

    I will put it bluntly. These folks at the courthouse can do one of three things: 1) Change their behavior and start serving ALL of the residents of the Counyt as opposed to a few well-connected friends and outsiders 2) Go to prison, especially if it is found out that these "abuses" are only the "tip of the iceberg" which some folks suspect or 3) Not be reelected again, which I think at this point 5 members of the BOS don't have a snowballs chance in hell of being reelected.

    Just my thoughts.

     
  • At 7/06/2006 1:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I tell you one thing, some of those supervisors are going to have to start acting like they give a damn about the people of this county and get off their arrogant high horses to start listening and start fixing problems in that courthouse. And I'm not talking about the roof.

     
  • At 7/07/2006 10:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Will, your point is well taken. But you may have overlooked the most fundamental issue.

    That issue being inefficiency in government at all levels. How our tax dollars are being spent.

    Seems to me in recent years there has been quite an expansion in employment with Prince Edward County government. I don't have a problem when I know that the added
    personnel is justified and efficiently applied to benefit the taxpayers.

    Sometimes I wonder if we are getting for we are paying for.

    Now, you are adding a new dimension to my concerns. Is the county just giving out jobs to friends and family? How much of this is going on? Do we really need these positions? How much are we paying these people? How hard are they really working for the taxpayers interests?

    I think this needs to be investigated.

    Thanks.

     
  • At 7/11/2006 10:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The word around the courthouse is that Mildred and Howard are scurring around like a couple of rats trying to plausibly explain why nothing is really wrong. Someone actually said that they thought they saw Mildred break out in a sweat. Now, that I don't believe. Mildred never exerts too much energy unless it is elbow bending at cocktail hour.

     
  • At 7/12/2006 12:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Jesus, what kind of county government do they have down there in Prince Edward? It is like the Three Stooges plus their two stupid cousins on the Board, armed with a "dud of an attorney" to try to keep them all out of jail. Then you have the staff... Oh, dear God. More friends and cousins needing jobs. What about those nieces and nephews who are in contracting, land development and real estate? They need jobs to.

     
  • At 7/13/2006 10:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Will, you really need to check out The Farmville Herald and the headlines about the county's golf course project. How could the Prince Edward County officials pictured in this article not see this coming? I guess cronies tend to be deaf and blind when it involves other cronies.

     
  • At 7/15/2006 1:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The answer is... Fore!!!...

     
  • At 7/21/2006 10:09 PM, Blogger Brian Lee said…

    If there is anyone interested in changing how we select school board members - back to direct election - please visit the link below. Work on a referendum is underway.

    http://peschoolboard.blogspot.com/

     
  • At 7/31/2006 12:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The Farmville Herald reported this past friday, that the Poplar Hill CDA is facing imminent foreclosure on certain property holdings reserved for the golf course expansion, the inn and conference center site.

    I thought the golf course just opened only a few weeks ago. What gives?

    I have asked a few people what exactly a CDA is, who is involved and why it was created. I can't seem to get any really good answers other than it was authorized by the County.

    Can anyone explain why this deal is going sour so fast. Are we taxpayers going to be left on the hook for this? Is this another example of the Supervisors helping out cronies on a risky deal?

    Worried Taxpayer

     
  • At 7/31/2006 8:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Unless there has been a recent change,Vice Chairman Howard Simpson, the same guy this article is about,is indeed on the Poplar Hill CDA board of directors. Coincidence? I don't know. But he is one of the key people who has been responsible for planning this real estate project the past five or six years. I would think he should be able to answer your questions. His number is 392-6908.

     
  • At 8/04/2006 8:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    As a citizen of Prince Edward, Buckie Fore is my supervisor. I am wondering why the former supervisor has not been contacted for comment. Why not go straight to the horse's mouth? As a close friend of the former supervisor I can tell you that he was relieved of his duties only 6 weeks after having major surgery on the very day he returned to work. There is a lot more that I could tell but it is not my place to spill the beans about the shady wrong doings in Prince Edward County. Contact the former supervisor please.

     
  • At 8/04/2006 9:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    As a resident of Prince Edward.I was wandering if anybody saw the
    picture of (The Honorable) Howard Simpson. One thing that comes to mind is the "Dukes of Hazzard".
    So keep up the good work there
    BOSS HOGG!!!!!!

     
  • At 8/06/2006 2:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    yes, I agree with a previous blogger.
    Why hasn't the former maintentance
    supervisor been contacted. Somebody
    needs to hear his side of the story. Yes, please someone in the press contact him for
    comment.

     
  • At 8/29/2006 8:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Following this expose' it seems that the county administrator and Howard Simpson are going into full cover-up mode to avoid having to explain their little sweet-heart deal that went bad. Were it not that this was publicly exposed, you can bet it would have become reality. What else have they been doing?

    This Board, at least most of it, is seems to allow the county administrator to run county government for the benefit of friends and family and we the taxpayers have to pay for it. I wonder why?

    I agree more questions need to be asked and answered. Until this is done, problems will continue with low personnel morale and Prince Edward County government will continue to serve only the favored few at the expense of all the rest of us.

     
  • At 10/18/2006 10:15 AM, Anonymous JR said…

    Yep, more questions need to be answered. But get a load of how Chairman Buckie and his cronies are handling the situation at the recent board meeting- just sweep it under the rug. Check it out at: http://www.southsidemessenger.com/articles
    /2006/10/13/news/o1.txt .

     
  • At 12/13/2007 11:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Will, there is more stuff going down in PE County I hear...please find out what it is!!!

     

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